Not a lot to be done in Matarangi…which is perfect! Festivities began with a swim in the ocean – repeated each day.
As you might imagine, Cocktail Hour is more than one hour, and more than a little critical to hospitality!
Christmas Dinner with Wilson’s and assorted relatives and neighbors. This is a generally Pot-luck affair, which included Roasted Lamb and Chicken and
TURKEY (as mentioned, our contribution…prepared according to Harris Thanksgiving Tradition) and Pavlova for Dessert.
And the USA-Style Christmas turkey was ESPECIALLY fine because the wood used for smoke was Manuka…a Kiwi tree that imparts a unique perfumey-smokey-husky note to the target meat (which is usually a fish called Kawahai around the Wilsons). Apparently the collected friends and family must have liked the blend of Kiwi and American flavours, because we were invited back for next year’s Christmas Festivities despite discussion of (and disgust at) our political situation.
Should we return (in question as of this writing because there is still ample time for us to wear out our welcome in perpetuity) we shall tuck some brining bags in the bottom of our suitcase! Haven’t figured out quite how to get Frozen Limeade here…
Christmas Dinner was preceded by a “Secret Santa” scenario much like we are used to in Liz’s Family….Odd gifts selected after choosing numbers…with the option to steal gifts from others. So, even though we are approx. 10,000 miles from “home” we felt right at home! We even had a Skype Chat with Liz’s family, which by virtual of the 19-hour time difference occurred approximately during THEIR Secret Santa, which occurs on Xmas Eve!
One gift given directly to us (so not the luck of the draw) was a Kiwi Phase book. You know, one of those foreign language primers to help you identify where the bathroom is and how to find your way home by questioning (but hopefully not offending) the natives.
Fortunately, Kiwis seem unoffendable, but there are several phrases we have needed more than others:
- Bob’s Your Uncle….Which apparently Means in “English”: “There you go…that’s all there is to it…” As in: “Just launch yourself into the wave on your boogie board and Bob’s your Uncle…”
- Cool Story…A Sarcastic remark given to someone who tells a ridiculously boring story (or to me, about this blog!)
- Designated Drunk. A Very Important Person at Kiwi Parties…for they are Chosen (it’s an HONOR) by the Designated Driver to receive all drinks and toasts the Designated Driver is not allowed to have.
- Brown-Arm. A polite way to name a “Sh*t-Stirrer,” which somehow I had gained the reputation of…SO UNDESERVED
- Knackered, Knockers and Knocked up. I get so confused by these similar-sounding but not quite the same words…
I hesitate to discuss the “weather” here. It is subtropical/temperate ocean-side summer. Which means each day has an awesome breeze, temp about 75F and an occasional shower. The latter seem to last about 10 minutes. There was even a bit of hail!
On one day (I think it was Wednesday, but who really cares?) we attempted fishing for dinner. As a universal fishing-preparation, Kevin said to take some sausage out to thaw, in case we didn’t manage to catch anything. Good thing, too.
As we exited the harbor, Kevin begin to worry a little bit about the wind and the waves. I was not worried so much about these…more that the crashing the boat was doing might be loosening my brand new Dental Crown! Anyway, we did not actually put a line in the water, experiencing instead a very nice (if a bit violent) boat ride and magnificent sausage for dinner.
Later in the week, we did get out for some more successful fishing. i.e. Line actually in the water and seafood for dinner! We caught a BUNCH of Snapper, which tasted delicious beer-battered. We caught some Gurnard, which look like a Dr. Seuss Fish and actually “bark” in the bottom of the boat. Taste delicious, too!
About mid-week, Kevin suggested we go to a seminar down at the Matarangi Volunteer Fire Station. “A seminar on what?” I asked. Kevin said: “On Crossing the Bar…”
Now I was worried. Because I thot I was pretty competent at ordering across the bar. I thot so because I am usually able to cross back from the bar successful and hydrated; so wasn’t my “skill” passable? Perhaps I was noticeably not successful enuf for Kevin? For a brief moment, I was worried that my methods had actually offended Kevin (actually, that might be a good thing). Perhaps he was tactfully (for a Kiwi) suggesting I needed remedial work?
As you are probably imagining by now, “Crossing the Bar” likely means something else in Kiwi. I consulted the phrasebook to no avail…not listed. The actual subject matter turned out to be MUCH more scary than dreaded bar-inadequacy…
This turned out to be a seminar for all the tourists and casual boaters who descend on Matarangi at Christmas Time. It was on how to safely and successfully cross the shifting, Tidal Sand Bar and Channel at the mouth of the harbor. Liz and I had NO IDEA this could be so dangerous! And even more scary than that, that we had naively trusted our lives already to Kevin’s skill and judgement!!! The Local Volunteer Fire and Rescue folks put on this seminar, hoping to reduce the number of call-outs to rescue amateurs who roll their boats and/or kill themselves in the attempt.
The seminar and associated videos reminded me of the grisly drunk-driving-accident videos they show to 15-year old pre-drivers to try to scary them into safe driving. All manner of large, aggressive waves and small boats at impossible angles and orientations. Don’t do “this” or “that” will happen (followed by a picture of a boat standing vertically with its Prop stuck in the sand).
Speaking of tourists…One day the newspaper screamed: DANGEROUS SHARK SIGHTED! MATARANGI BEACHES EVACUATED. Kevin said this happens every year when the tourists are here…they see a shark sunbathing in the shallows and call emergency! Most have been introduced to sharks in the movies, and don’t realize they are magnificent, and, unfortunately many are endangered critters.
We did see a few, curious, juvenile Blue Sharks while fishing (see video, below, provided by Kevin’s son-in-law, Nick). 2 meters long and decidedly Not dangerous. The last verified “attack” was documented as follows: “A fisherman was bitten by a mako shark … but only after he had hauled it on board and started gutting it…”
How exactly is that a “Dangerous Shark?”
We performed other Kiwi Rituals. We went to the beach with the Wilsons’ grandkids to show off (learn) proper boogie-boarding form. Then back to enjoy a “Spider” on the deck. A “Spider” is actually like a root beer or cola float (i.e. Ice Cream and some sort of carbonated beverage). I asked 9-year-old Jayden why these were called “Spider.” He said, with that incredulous and universal look that 9-year-olds have for idiotic grown-up questions, “Because there is a spider in the bottom.”
I think I won’t plan to have a “spider” in Australia, where spiders can kill you!
Other rituals performed: Visited Hot Springs in Whitianga. Also planned to visit Hot Beach…where you dig a hole in the sand at mid-tide and the geothermal hot water mixes with ocean water to make a delightful soak. When you live on top of a volcano/Ocean Rift, I guess you make lemonade… Ate Hokey Pokey and Goody Goody Gumdrops Ice Cream. The former is actually quite good…bit of crunch candy bits in vanilla ice cream. The latter is an interesting shade of Blue with bits of unidentifiable gummy-things strewn throughout….once is enough for Goody Goody Gumdrops and it is now permanently crossed off the list. Meals included seafood (including manuka-smoked Kawahai), local beef and lamb, Hapuka fish.
Kevin said “Hapuka” is also known as “Groper.” I think that is actually “Grouper,” and I find it fascinating that the Kiwis (and Aussies) add “u” to inappropriate words such as “Colour” and “Flavour” by apparently stealing them from other words!
We also walked to the “Dairy” (Kiwi for local grocery and sundries store…including some dairy products) to use the Wifi there for obtaining Chicago Papers on our Kindles. Since WiFi is not great here…slow and expensive for the most part…you have been spared the usual volume of communication from Los Harris.
Hopefully lack of QUANTITY made up for by QUALITY.